First Impressions: Nikon Df

I had the opportunity to play around with the new Nikon Df today. Nikon Df is Nikon’s new retro looking camera. This is hardly a technical or practical review, but rather just some of my thoughts on this camera.

Nikon Df

First of all, I think it’s a very interesting camera. I’m not a particularly retro guy myself, but I do own seven analog cameras manufactured between 1950’s and 1990’s. I do enjoy shooting a roll of film now and then, and I really like that these cameras are so old that they’re stripped of all advanced electronics, except maybe a timer and a light meter. It sort of brings me closer to the craft that is photography. I’m forced to think before I shoot, and carefully consider and frame each picture. Could the Nikon Df be a digital camera that would be as fun as an old analog one?

Nikon Df is a nice looking camera. As I said I’m no retro guy, but I can’t say I don’t like the look of it. The 50mm 1.8 Special Edition that ships with it also matches the camera, and it’s really great looking! While I haven’t studied the image quality in detail, after taking a couple of images I had a very good feeling. No doubt we’re talking about a camera that delivers high quality images!

The first thing that hit me when I grabbed the Df was it’s weight. I was expecting it to be much heavier. On the other hand, I’m used to hauling a D800 around, but still I was pleasantly surprised. The second thing I noticed was how great it was to have aperture, shutter, and ISO controls right at your fingertips, even more accessible than on some DSLRs! Even if the locking mechanism on the mechanical dial adjusting most of the exposure controls was a bit annoying, I felt that this could be a fun camera focused on the very basics of photography rather than all kinds of fancy technology. However, this is where I was wrong. The camera is packed with the same technology you’ll find in most DSLRs (except video!). It’s sort of a D4 stripped of some of the advanced functions and put into a retro shell.

While the camera was lighter than expected, it was also bigger and much bulkier than I expected. Also it was packed with buttons all over, which I found sort of distracting. The retro design wasn’t as neat looking as I’m used to from Fuji, and it kept reminding me that this was a modern digital camera just like any other. Not to mention, the biggest deal breaker for me; the price. At almost $3000, roughly the same price as a D800, this is an expensive camera. Price wise it’s right up there in the pro range, and by all means it’s a high quality pro camera! But the way I see it, it’s appeal is to the masses of photography enthusiasts. Time will tell if they consider it worth the price.

While the Df is a fun camera, it’s way to pricey for me. Especially since I don’t see it as a primary camera. I would however love to have it as a second, sort of recreational camera for fun. I do like the thought of pure photography, however in my mind, Nikon Df is not it. If Nikon were to launch a smaller, more reasonably priced version, perhaps aimed at the amateur/enthusiast level. Say at the size of an old SLR like Minolta XG or Pentax Spotmatic. Stripped it of all the fancy advanced functions and buttons, and just kept basic exposure control. Then it would really be pure photography in my eyes!